Of the more than 200 private wells sampled in the Beaver Dam Lake area, none tested with PFOS above the lifetime health-advisory level set by the federal Environmental Protections Agency.
The news was presented by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health officials at a public forum held at Washingtonville Middle School last month. Speakers provided residents with an update on recent sampling results from in and around Beaver Dam Lake.
The DEC was adamant in stating that local fish remain unsafe for human consumption. “If there’s one message from tonight, it’s to not eat the fish,” said the DEC’s George Heitzman, head of the agency’s investigation into perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination at Stewart Air National Guard Base.
“None of the (Beaver Dam Lake area) results had levels over the 70-parts-per-trillion health advisory,” said Wendy Kuehner, a DOH project manager.
Kuehner pointed to a map on an overhead projector showing a shaded area where private wells had been tested. The vast majority of these wells tested “non-detect” for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), she said, meaning the wells tested with less than 2 parts per trillion of either chemical.
The sampling program was carried out a year following the discovery of PFOS at Beaver Dam and Washington lakes. Not used for drinking water, Beaver Dam Lake was found to contain PFOS concentrations of 41 parts per trillion and 11 parts per trillion of PFOA last year. The lake is located in the towns of Blooming Grove, Cornwall and New Windsor.
Washington Lake, which serves as the City of Newburgh’s main drinking-water reservoir, tested with PFOS levels ranging between 140 and 170 parts per trillion. The city has since switched to using drinking water from the Catskill Aqueduct.
According to the DOH, “PFOS levels decline in blood naturally by about half every 5-7 years, assuming there is no additional exposure. However, the chemical diminishes within months in certain animal species, said DOH research scientist Jim Bowers. “As a species, we happen to be really bad at getting rid of it,” he said. “It takes a long time for the chemical to leave our bodies.”
People living in the Beaver Dam Lake area who took blood tests averaged 5 micrograms per liter of PFOS in their blood, Bowers said, compared to an average of 20 micrograms per liter in City of Newburgh residents.
The state installed a total of 33 point-of-entry water filtration systems on properties with wells that tested with higher levels of the chemicals, Kuehner said. The DEC will monitor the filtration systems moving forward, she said.
A catch-and-release advisory remains in effect for fish in seven local water ways: Beaver Dam Lake, Moodna Creek, Washington Lake, Masterson Park Pond, Silver Stream and Recreation Pond, thought to be the chief delivery point for perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) flowing into the watershed from the air base.
The DEC sampled several fish species in these water bodies – yellow perch and largemouth bass among them – and found the fish to contain elevated levels of PFOS and PFOA, Heitzman said. PFCs were found in the highest concentrations in fish at Recreation Pond, Heitzman said. He described the pond, which feeds Silver Stream, as “ground zero” for the PFOS pollution in Washington Lake.
However, the PFOS and PFOA that migrated to Beaver Dam Lake came through surface water, he said. Moreover, the chemicals flowing into the Beaver Dam Lake area were produced during a FedEx plane fire in 1996, he explained. “The FedEx fire is what’s feeding the area in Beaver Dam Lake,” Heitzman said.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the property on which the air base is located, Heitzman noted. “The Port Authority, just last week, gave us a conceptual plan to isolate (the) storm-water system that feeds from the FedEx fire and discharges into the Beaver Dam Lake area,” he said. “It’s a first step.”
To date, the U.S. Department of Defense has declined to take any remedial action to address the PFC contamination of drinking water surrounding the air base, Heitzman said.
By SHANTAL RILEY